Crane(ing) to see Shorebirds

All stories have a begining and all stories have an end.  This one starts on Friday morning, when I had a runny nose.  It didn’t surprise me, both my kids had been sick and I was prepared for the worst, but both the kids seemed to bounce back in only a day and I was hoping the same.

By noon time, my nose had stopped running (and no I didn’t catch it) and I was feeling pretty good.  Everyone else in my office had left early for one reason or another and I was all alone.  I decided it was high time to get our brand new high speed internet hooked up and running and began my task.  After starting the project however, I knew it was going to take time.  Throw in a powerful thunderstorm which kept periodically knocking the power out to the office and the job became even worse.  I was there was no way I was getting out early and in fact didn’t get out until after 7pm.  But hey at least I had my health.

After returning home and running around, I crawled into bed around 11pm.  I woke up at 3am, but went back to sleep.  I woke up at 4:10am, and bolted out of bed knowing that Corey was already sitting outside waiting!  I got dressed fast and bolted out the door, into the car and we were off to Montezuma in the Finger Lakes.

The drive was easy enough, and as Corey has commented was at times foggy.  We made good time and got to the refuge a little before seven.  Now usually the wetlands complex is a teeming marsh, but they apparantly are doing work and there was very little water in the refuge proper.  We drove down the wildlife drive but found little shorebird habitat or birds in general.  Moving along the thruway, Zach and I spotted two birds flying towards us, necks outstretched, a pair of SANDHILL CRANES!  A new state and year bird for me.

From there we made our way to Tsachache (pronounced ‘Shockey’ Pool) were we found many Shorebirds, including Stilt, Pectoral, White-Rumped, Least, Semi-Palmated, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, both Dowitchers, Killdeer, Semi-palmated Plover, Caspian and Black Terns.  An Osprey was always flying over head and Juv. Bald Eagle put things up once or twice.  Also present were American Coot and Common Moorhen. Zach heard a Sora, along with many Great Blue Herons, a few Great Egrets and a flyover American Bittern.  We hit Mays Point next, but other than a Virgina Rail, more Moorhen and Pied-billed Grebe trying to swallow a large fish, not much was going on. 

From there we took a ride northwest of Montezuma to find the famous ‘Mucklands’.  Although it wasn’t the right time of year, the landscape was impressive.  We did see many thousands of Swallows over the corn fields, mostly Bank, but good numbers of Tree and Barn as well.  We tried to find some more shorebird habitat around Montezuma, but found little.  There might have been more, but not being from the area we don’t know all the local hotspots.

We drove east towards Rome, NY to a place called Delta Lake, where a Whimbrel had been reported.  Ont the drive over, that tickle in the back of my throat started getting sore, making the already hot day less comfortable. 

We arrived at the state Park on Delta Lake and hiked along the shoreline towards an exposed sandbar.  We could see some shorebirds, but nothing that looked even close to a Whimbrel.  After going a good distance, my throat was getting dry and very sore and I found a nice shady spot where I could view the entire sandbar and everything flying by.  Corey and Zach made their way through the muck and out onto the bar and I hoped they would flush everything from the side I couldn’t see well over towards me.  They did, but it was about a dozen Great-Blue Herons.  After about half and hour, they returned not having found anything new and certainly no Whimbrel.

We hiked back out and drove up the road where Corey spotted another good section of mudflats.  A quick scan showed more shorebirds, with one causing Zach and I to think for awhile.  Corey was sure it was just a Yellowlegs.  It looked larger than a Yellowlegs and from our distant scope views looked like it had orange legs, several other field marks were discussed and a Ruff was a possibility.  We had to get closer.  Further and further out into the muck we traveled, at times sinking a good foot into the mud.  As we got closer we had trouble locating the bird we had seen and once we got about half way out decided it was the light playing tricks on us and that the bird was a Greater Yellowlegs mixed in with a bunch of Lessers.  Exhausted and tired, we trudged back to the car and essentially gave up.  Too bad we did, because when we arrived back in Albany we discovered the Whimbrel had been seen again, on the one street we didn’t go down, go figure!

On the ride back to Albany I started feeling worse and worse.  By the time I got home I had a temperature of 101 and a massive sore throat.  But I was able to sleep well, because even though I felt like crap towards the end, it was all worth it.

4 responses to “Crane(ing) to see Shorebirds

  1. It was all worth it! Four year birds for me and I believe even more for you…to say nothing of all those swallows, which I think was the most impressive part of the day.

  2. Pingback: Where’s the Whimbrel?

  3. Nex time you’re birding along the Thruway and feeling adventurous, check out the Utica Marsh. It can seem kind of rough down there so I don’t advise going solo, but it’s a terrific birding place that I’m sad it took me so long to discover. I used to go there for my annual Least Bitterns, Virginia Rails, and Soras (once had one run over my boot), and it’s a good place for other species that can be hard to find in Central NY, like Warbling Vireo.

  4. I’ve been to the Utica Marsh and have found much safer and friendly areas to see those birds closer to Albany, it is still however one of the best marshes to bird Upstate!

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